January 10, 2017

Whitehouse Presses Attorney General Nominee For Answers About Protecting Rhode Islanders’ Civil Rights

Whitehouse conveys local concerns about Sessions’ record on civil rights, immigration

Washington, DC – In a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today questioned President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), about the nominee’s past statements disparaging immigrant groups and prominent civil rights organizations.

“I’m from Rhode Island, as you know, Senator,” began Whitehouse.  “We have NAACP and ACLU members who have heard that you called their organizations un-American.  We have a vibrant Dominican community who look at Big Papi, David Ortiz, swinging his bat for the Red Sox and wonder why you said ‘almost no one coming from the Dominican Republican to the United States is coming here because they have a provable skill that would benefit us.’  I represent a lot of Latinos who worry about modern day Palmer Raids breaking up parents from their kids, and Muslims worried about so-called patrols of Muslim homes and neighborhoods, and I’ve heard from police chiefs who worry that you as attorney general will disrupt law enforcement priorities that they have set out, and disrupt the community relations that they have worked hard over years of community engagement to achieve.”

A video of Whitehouse’s questioning is available here.

In late December, Whitehouse brought together more than a dozen Rhode Islanders representing civil rights organizations, the legal community, government, and other constituencies to hear Rhode Islanders’ thoughts about Sessions’ nomination.  Participants raised questions about Sessions’ record on civil rights, voting access, immigration, and criminal justice reform.  Some around the table expressed concern about whether a Justice Department led by Sessions would be willing to remain independent from the Trump White House, as the Department is currently instructed to do.‎

Sessions’ hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to continue tomorrow, January 11.  Constituents are encouraged to share thoughts about or questions for any of the President-elect’s nominations with Whitehouse via his website, whitehouse.senate.gov, or by calling his office at (401) 453-5294.

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